The Risks of Allowing Employees to Use Personal Tools and Software

Employers often face the dilemma of allowing employees to use their personal tools and software accounts for work purposes. While it may seem efficient and cost-effective, there are significant risks involved. Business attorney Aaron Hall highlights why companies must be cautious about this practice.

Intellectual Property and Licensing Issues

Employee-Owned Code

When employees use their own software code, ownership becomes a major concern. If an employee develops software or a tool using their code, the company may face legal challenges once that employee leaves. The primary issue is whether the company has the right to continue using the code. Without proper agreements, the company might lose access, leaving them unable to maintain or update their systems.

Software Licensing

Another critical issue is the licensing of software. Employees may use software tools they have personal licenses for, but these licenses often do not transfer to the company. This becomes problematic when the employee departs, as the company might not legally be able to use the software or any products created with it. For example, creating a video using Adobe products requires a commercial license, and failure to comply can result in legal action.

Access to Accounts and Tools

Loss of Access

When employees leave and take their accounts with them, the company loses access to essential resources. This can disrupt operations, especially if the company needs to modify previous work. For instance, if an employee used Canva to create marketing materials, the company would need access to the account to make updates. Without it, even minor changes become impossible.

Copyright and Legal Compliance

Using Licensed Images and Media

Employees might use images or media from various sources, assuming they have the right to use them. However, this can lead to copyright infringement issues if the proper licenses are not obtained. Companies need to ensure they are working with legitimate licensing firms like Shutterstock or Adobe Stock, which offer insurance policies to protect against infringement claims.

Risks of Fraudulent Licenses

There are instances where employees inadvertently purchase licenses from fraudulent sources. Even if the company paid for these licenses, they could still face legal challenges if the seller did not have the right to distribute the content. Ensuring all media and software come from reputable sources is crucial to avoid such pitfalls.

Best Practices for Companies

Regular Review of Tools and Resources

Companies should periodically review the tools and resources their employees use. This includes verifying that all software and media are properly licensed and ensuring the company retains access to necessary accounts and tools.

Centralized Control of Accounts

Maintaining control over all accounts and tools used in the company is essential. This involves setting up company-owned accounts for software and media tools, ensuring that all work-related resources remain accessible regardless of employee turnover.

Legal Oversight

Having legal oversight to manage software licenses and intellectual property rights can prevent many issues. This might involve in-house legal teams or consulting with external attorneys to review and manage the company’s use of software and media.

Allowing employees to use their personal tools and software accounts poses significant risks related to intellectual property, licensing, and access. Companies must implement best practices to manage these risks effectively. By centralizing control and ensuring legal compliance, businesses can protect themselves from potential legal challenges and operational disruptions.

Video Transcript

Let employees use their tools, like their own software accounts, is dangerous. The software code that they get. Companies need to pay attention to what resources are being used by their employees. I will explain why.